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Geoff Tate seems to be sort of an enigmatic person for a lot of people. Always a bit mysterious and probably often misunderstood. Prior to meeting Geoff for the first time, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I have been a longtime fan of his work, first in Queensryche and now on his own. Geoff has just finished his latest album under the Operation: Mindcrime moniker, The New Reality, which is set for release on December 1st through Frontiers Music. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Geoff is a very friendly, intelligent and articulate guy that has a tremendous amount of respect for his fans, the press and other performers. During our interview, I found him to be humble, honest and quite interesting to speak with. I hope you will enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.
XS ROCK: So, I really like the latest and final chapter in the Operation: Mindcrime trilogy, The New Reality. To me, it seems much closer to the classic Queensryche sound that you helped create. Was that by design? It almost seems like, in many ways that on the first two albums, you were almost trying to distant yourself from sounding too much like your former band.
Geoff: Umm, I don’t know if I was really trying…..I’ve written the majority of the material over the years for Queensryche and now my own. There’s a similarity that you have as a writer that you can’t get away from you. It kind of follows you. Even though I’ve collaborated with a lot of different people on this project, there’s still a lot of things that are similar in the musical passages, the melodies, and the lyrics. It has a familiarity to people, I guess.
XS ROCK: So you just kind of did what you wanted to do and that’s just the way it came out in your work, correct?
Geoff: Yeah. I kind of always follow that plan. I don’t know any other way to go about it, you know?
XS ROCK: So, now that Operation: Mindcrime has come to an end, what’s next for Geoff Tate?
Geoff: Well, really touring. I’ve got quite an extensive tour itinerary coming up. I’m going to be starting my tour in Ireland and then kind of spreading out across Europe. After that, I’ll be jotting back to North America sometime in the Spring and South America after that and then probably Asia after that. So it’s going to be a pretty full year of touring for me.
XS ROCK: Musically, as far as recording, do you have anything beyond Operation: Mindcrime planned? More solo work or a possible new band?
Geoff: I don’t. I really don’t have a set musical plan. I’m constantly writing, jotting down ideas and creating demos and things like that, so I have a lot of, as yet, unreleased material that I suppose I could make something out of, you know? I haven’t really decided on what I want to do or how I want to go about it as of yet. I’m really kind of just getting finished with the Operation: Mindcrime projects. It was really, really intense. It was a long project. A three year project and I kind of want to take just a little bit of a musical breather. Recharge my batteries a bit and see where the touring leads me.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Geoff: I like both for different reasons. I love being in the studio. My wife actually has a hard time trying to get me out of the studio, actually. It’s kind of my office, my think tank. It’s where I go to organize my thoughts and write down new ideas. I love being there. But, I also love traveling. I love going around the world to different places and visiting friends and there’s so many countries that I like to visit and while I’m there, I may as well play a show, you know? (laughs). I try to gather different groups of people together to play my music with me and that’s always fun. That’s kind of what we’re doing over the next month, rehearsing for this upcoming tour. I’m going to put together a real interesting set list for the people. I think it will really please a lot of people who may have seen me perform over the years. I’ll be doing some really deep cuts off of some albums that often times don’t get a lot of attention. I’m looking forward to playing some of that material.
XS ROCK: Starting with The Warning album, Queensryche seemed to have a really solidified sound and direction (a thinking man’s heavy metal, if you will) that was quite different from most metal bands at the time. Was this pre-planned or was it just the results of the chemistry of the band members together?
Geoff: I think that’s collectively where our heads were at. We were dealing with a lot of doomsday type stuff. That was 1984. A lot of our albums had to do with the times. That was a very radical time in my life. I was really at that point, exposed to international politics and the first time that the band had gone overseas. It was really an eye opening experience, seeing the world in an entirely different perspective from what I had. I think that really is reflected in the music.
XS ROCK: I usually don’t ask questions about politics, but a lot of your material seems political in nature at times. What do you think of the current U.S. President, Donald Trump?
Geoff: I haven’t been a fan so far. I think the worst president in my lifetime has been George W. Bush. Just a horrible presidency. and I think President Trump will probably beat that record and be the worst president in history (laughs) . I wrote an interesting piece on this recently. We are stepping into a period of growth. As Americans, we are facing a full frontal discussion on who we are. We are able now, with our advancements in communications to communicate everywhere in the world all at once now. So we are witness to situations that are occurring everywhere and we’re commenting on them testing our own perspectives and our belief system. We’re questioning it and drawing new lines. I think it’s a healthy thing, but it’s very frustrating because we don’t really have an American identity. We came from all over the world from different countries and nationalities and we came to this country to worship the god of our choice and make lots of money. Those two situations don’t really align themselves to fulfill one’s identity. But here we are…trying to figure out who we are., what we believe and what’s right and what’s wrong. We’re now redrawing the lines for sexism in the workplace and those lines needed to be redrawn for a long time. In my lifetime, black people were persecuted, segregated and couldn’t vote. And in my grandmother’s lifetime, people were still slaves. At that time it was okay to own somebody. Now, we look at that and say well that’s ridiculous. How could that be? How could that have happened? How could people believe that? Go back even further to England an France and millions of people used to think that the King or Queen were holy. They believed that god, a god, some god, spoke to these people and told them that they were holy and that they needed to lead those people. And they somehow convinced millions of people that it was true. Now we look at it with 21st century eyes and say what a bunch of idiots. How could they believe that stuff? Well, we’re in that same place now. We’re questioning our actions and belief systems and it’s testy. A lot of people say freedom is a right. It’s not a right. It’s a choice that we make.
XS ROCK: A lot of your lyrical content is quite intellectual in nature, what influences you creatively when writing new lyrics?
Geoff: Well, all kinds of things really. I guess it kind of depends on what I’m writing for. The trilogy project was a story. I was creating the lyrical direction out of the outline of the story. Other times it’s events that are happening around me. World events. It’s a fantastic time to be alive right now. There’s so much information out there and so many inspirational situations, every day. Also, I’m at a point in my life now, where I’m pushing 60 and I have a real opportunity to look at things in retrospect. People that I’ve known for a long period of time are going through changes in life and that’s an interesting bunch of topics that I can pull from. I have my ears open and my eyes open right now. I’m in what I call the sponge mode, where I sort of pick up a lot of different things, feelings and observations and kind of catalog them in my memory banks, before I make something new.
XS ROCK: So, the record industry has changed dramatically since the 80’s, what do you think the key to survival as a recording artist is today?
Geoff: Is there an industry? I think that depends on who you’re talking to. For myself, I’m a pretty established artist, I’ve been doing it for a long time, so I have an audience. I can plop down in most cities, at least in the 65 countries that I tour in, I can go there and put on a show. A lot of new bands starting out don’t have that audience yet. And I don’t even know how a young band even gets an audience anymore because it used to be that we heard about new bands and artists from the radio and we don’t have that anymore. So I guess for a time, it was YouTube, but if the FCC has their way and they stop net neutrality, then wow!, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s going to be a bloodbath for a lot of businesses, small businesses and a band or young artist is really a small business. It’s really difficult times.
XS ROCK: Over the years you’ve toured with a lot of different bands. Which band treated you the best and who was the worst?
Geoff: I toured with Trans-Siberian Orchestra and they treated me like gold. It was fantastic! It was champagne nights and caviar dreams. I was just in Sao Paulo Brazil, and I did a show with Angra, which is the biggest metal band in Brazil, and I did a special guest thing with them and I sang some of their songs with them and they sang some of my songs with me. It was really, really beautiful. A really great audience. I’ve been in a lot of situations where bands have treated me really, really well. The majority of them were really helpful. Especially in the early days. Iron Maiden was really great. Judas Priest were fantastic. AC/DC was just over the top cool and nice and welcoming. Ronnie Dio was exceptional. He was actually my first experience with touring. He kind of set the bar. He treated Queensryche really well as the opening act. He gave us sound checks, lighting and all of the sound we wanted. You could go anywhere on stage and had freedom backstage to move around and I thought that was just the norm. Later, when we toured with some other bands, you couldn’t even look at the guys in the band (laughs) without getting kicked off the tour. I won’t say who that was. That will be in my book someday.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road?
Geoff: Hmmm. Well, I’m not really sure what’s considered outrageous, because my level of outrageous is set pretty high (laughs). Around 2004 or 2005, when I was in Queensryche, we were opening for Iron Maiden, we had a day off somewhere in Texas and a bunch of us all went out golfing. That lead to a lot of drinking and that lead to us all getting kicked out of the country club where we were staying…for different reasons, public drunkenness, nudity, profanity, things like that (laughs).
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Geoff: Wow! Strangest request? Well, I’m really interactive with my fans. I actually really like talking to them and listening to what they think and how they interpret lyrics and so forth. It’s interesting to hear their perspective. You know, I’ve done things like visiting people in the hospital, blood drives, I’ve done several lectures at schools in regards to music. I’m active in a charity called Save The Music which helps put musical instruments in kids hands at an early age and gives them musical instruction. It’s a really wonderful organization and they do great things. I was always glad that I grew up in a school system that supported the arts. I was in school band all of my school life. I try to give back to that whenever I can.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment both musically and personally so far?
Geoff: Oh gosh, you’re making me to dig deep here. I think being around and making music for the length of time that I have is pretty amazing. This new album is my 18th album. I think that’s like 216 songs that I’ve written. A lot of content. I’m pretty proud of that. I think that I’ve been married to my wife Susan, for 23 or 24 years now, we both forget exactly how long it is. I think that’s pretty impressive. I’m very happy in my personal life with my family and my life. We have five beautiful daughters and now grandchildren. I feel very blessed. Every day, I open my eyes and I’m thankful that I’m still alive.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Geoff: I never had a backup plan. I’ve always been a musician. When I was nine I started listening to music and starting shaping myself a s a musician even then. I figured out what I wanted and systematically went in that direction.
XS ROCK: In the age of fake news, similar to Axl Rose, there is a lot of negative comments about you posted in various places on the web. I wonder if you’d address that by giving me your take on things. Do you personally think that you’re a difficult or arrogant person as many people have posted?
Geoff: (laughs) I think those things that are written about me on the internet are written by people who don’t know me, honestly. The whole Queensryche break up was a pretty nasty thing and I think it’s pretty well known, that in a lawsuit situation, there’s a lot of negativity that’s spread around.
XS ROCK: Do you think that’s what drives most of it? Like kids of divorced parents choosing sides with one parent over another?
Geoff: Oh, I absolutely do. I’ve worked with way too many people and have way to many contacts with people for a personality like some people try to paint for me. So, there you go. Also, if you’re an artist that sort of breaks the rules, like myself, I tend to draw myself outside of the box. I challenge my listeners musically quite a bit. And I think that’s upsetting to some people who want me to conform to some sort of standard that they’ve invented. That becomes frustrating to some people.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene? Any new bands out there that you really like?
Geoff: Yeah. I’ve been listening to all kinds of new music lately. There’s a band that I’ve been listening to called Vancouver Sleep Clinic. I really like their music. It’s very unique and beautiful. Kind of sadly beautiful. It’s fitting for today. It’s rainy and dark. Very introspective.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Geoff: I have no idea.
XS ROCK: I guess it would be a surprise to you as well?
Geoff: Yeah. (laughs) I guess it would.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Geoff: I’ve got really wonderful fans and I’m very thankful that people will come out and spend their evenings listening to me and what I have to say. They continue to come out and they bring their kids and their friends and it’s really become a unique thing that and I’m really grateful for this life that people have allowed me to live. So, I guess I would say thank you. Thank you so much for that.
XS ROCK: Thanks again Geoff for taking the time to talk with us at XS Rock, I know you have quite a busy itinerary at the moment with tour planning and all!
Geoff: Thank you Bobby! Thanks for the interview. Good questions. I appreciate that too.
The Operation: Mindcrime Trilogy
You can buy them on Amazon by clicking here.